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4 tips on how to catch Artic grayling

If you're looking for a unique fish to catch while in Alaska or Canada then fishing for grayling is for you.  These trout-like fish have a sail-like fan for a dorsal fin and body colors that range from black, silver, gold to blue.  Although explorers Lewis and Clark called them a "new kind of white or silvery trout," grayling are commonly described as smelling like the herb thyme.  If you're headed up north this summer, here's how to catch an Artic grayling.

1.  Location, location, location.  

You'll mostly find these fish in the northern part of North America.  The highest concentrations are north of Anchorage, Alaska and Canada, with a few small concentrations living in the lower 48 states.  In the Continental US they're found in parts of Montana's Missouri River, and in some lakes in Arizona and in Utah where they were stocked. 

2.  Summer time is the fun time.  

Grayling spawn in the spring, so come summer they're ready to eat.  These feeding machines feast on aquatic insects like mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and midges.  They don't stop there, for these gluttons will eat eggs spawned from salmon, baitfish, and terrestrials like grasshoppers or ants. Because of the short summer season grayling feed aggressively to put on weight for the long winter ahead.

3.  Grayling hit hard.  

When fly fishing for grayling, use a combination of attractor and imitator patterns.  Good flies for grayling are attractors like Royal Wulff's, Chartreuse Trudes, of Yellow Humpies.  Imitators such as Mosquito's, Black Gnats, or Elk-wing caddis work well.  For subsurface work try grayling flies like Wooly Buggers, Gold-ribbed Hare's Ears or Prince nymphs.  Most grayling flies are small and in the #12-16 range.  Common Artic grayling lures are Mepps Spinners and Roostertails or Kastmaster and Al's Goldfish spoons.  Brighter colors work better on dark days and dark colors on bright days.

4.  Light tackle works best.

 If you're learning how to fly fish then this fish species is for you.  Since they're in streams and rivers and weigh under 5 pounds, fly fishing gear consists of 3-5 weight rods with lengths between 7 1/2 and 9 feet in length.

If you're headed far north this summer then pack some grayling flies and target this wonderful, unique fish.


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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.